A gunman opened fire in a small Texas church during Sunday service, killing 26, wounding many more and ultimately shooting himself.
The event didn't even make the top news position in the Monday morning Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. That upper right-hand Page 1 space went to Donald Trump's trip to Japan, where he offered the familiar thoughts and prayers for the latest massacre victims, only marginally more valuable than the ritual moment of silence by the U.S. House.
As ever, a call for action on gun safety was met first by those who said it was no time to politicize tragedy.
The attorney general of Texas also said it was time to get MORE guns in churches.
The U.S. has the most guns of any country in the world, 88.8 for every 100 people. That's twice the rate of the nearest competitor, Yemen. We record almost four times the gun homicides of our next closest competitor in the developed world.
Still, people like Rep. Charlie Collins (R-Fayetteville) think the answer is more guns. In 2017, he finally forced state colleges to allow concealed weapons on campus. Some think this won't improve safety.
The University of Arkansas recently recorded a suicide by gun on UA property. The UA police are refusing to provide details on account of the victim's age. But it would be interesting to know how the gun was acquired and where the gun was kept. We know that ready availability of guns increases the likelihood of accidents and other ill outcomes. Says the Harvard School of Public Health: "Every study that has examined the issue to date has found that within the U.S., access to firearms is associated with increased suicide risk."
Donald Trump says the mass shooting wasn't a gun issue, but a mental health issue. Matt DeCample, former press aide to Gov. Mike Beebe, used series of tweets to illustrate the emptiness of Trump's words.
Trump and the Republican Congress are determined to make severe cuts in Medicaid, the country's biggest provider of mental health care. At risk currently, too, is the Children's Health Insurance Program, another source of treatment for childhood mental, emotional and behavioral disorders. Treatment of young people can prevent adult problems. Commented DeCample, "Making it harder to obtain mental health care when it is costing us innocent American lives is, pun intended, just crazy."
New spending on mental health seems unlikely from this Congress. So what about modest gun safety legislation?
FBI analysis of mass shootings shows that almost 6 in 10 involve a family member among victims and 16 percent of attackers have a record of domestic violence. The latest killer got a bad conduct discharge from the Air Force for abuse of his wife and child, and his mother-in-law was among the members of the church he targeted with his semi-automatic rifle.
A universal background check — well-enforced, unlike the Air Force's failure to report the Texas killer's domestic conviction — makes it harder for people to obtain and own weapons. Why not close the gun show loophole? And why not tighten prohibitions for gun ownership and purchase by domestic abusers. Shouldn't the federal law apply to domestic partners, not just legal spouses? And why shouldn't Arkansas tighten up its law on domestic abuse? In 2017, Rep. Clarke Tucker (D-Little Rock) got a quick veto from the gun lobby for his bill to extend the prohibition on gun ownership for those convicted of misdemeanor domestic battery. Rep. Bob Ballinger objected to a gun prohibition for something that might be a "relatively minor" matter.
Lose gun rights over beating your wife? It's unacceptable in Arkansas under the "natural law" that Ballinger claims to preach.
I know gun control legislation isn't going anywhere, in Arkansas for sure. If slaughters in elementary schools and churches and a mass shooting of 600 people in a matter of a few hundred seconds can't weaken the gun lobby's hold on politicians, nothing will.
I remain sure of this much: More guns and ammo aren't the answer.